Author Reyna Grande focuses on topics of immigration. Her memoir, "The Distance Between Us", was published in adult and young reader editions. She also wrote a couple of fiction pieces that were loosely based on her experience of coming to the U.S. from Mexico as a child.
Grande’s new book, "A Ballad of Love and Glory," takes readers in a different direction, connecting two important military figures of the Mexican-American War through an equally significant, fictitious go-between. The book is Grande’s first historical fiction, and she chose an era and location that fascinates her.
CapRadio's Donna Apidone spoke with Grande about why the time period spoke to her, and why she felt empowered writing about it.
On the importance of the Mexican-American War
I didn’t know if I wanted to write a story about war, but now I’m so glad that I did. I just feel so inspired to talk about this time period and to get us to reclaim our history. As a Latina writer, I’m constantly looking at what haven’t we written enough about. The Mexican-American war is a war that U.S. cannot remember and Mexico cannot forget.
On the Irish battalion that fought for Mexico
St Patrick’s Battalion was a company of mostly Irish soldiers who deserted the U.S. Army, and they switched sides to defend Mexico against the U.S. I was very fascinated by that. I started reading about John Riley, who was the leader of the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and I fell in love with the story.
On the Mexicans’ inclusion of Irish soldiers
They were known for welcoming foreigners into their ranks. Many of the generals and officers in the Mexican Army were foreign-born. The Mexicans welcomed Riley and the other deserters and treated them with so much respect. It is documented that they made him a first lieutenant, and he rose up to being a colonel by the end.
On finding herself in the history
To me, it was really empowering writing this book because as a Mexican living in California, it helped me to see myself as no longer a foreigner, no longer an outsider, but somebody who actually belongs here. California was part of Mexico. Spanish was spoken here first before English. It just empowered me in a way I hadn’t felt empowered by finally saying, ‘You know what? I’m not the outsider here.’
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